Postdoctoral research

Funded postdoctoral positions will be advertised here, on the University of St Andrews vacancies page and on jobs.ac.uk. Researchers who wish to apply for an independent postdoctoral fellowship to join the lab should contact Dr MacNeill to discuss possible projects well in advance of the application deadline.

Postgraduate study

PhD study: Funded PhD studentships in the lab are advertised on FindPhD. PhD studentships funded by the School of Biology (only) are currently available to students of all nationalities. Studentships funded by other funding bodies may be subject to geographical restrictions. Prospective students who intend to self-fund their studies are welcome to contact Dr MacNeill at any time to discuss possible projects. Partial fee waivers may be available for well-qualified students who are able to cover their own living costs in this way.

MSc(Res) study: The MSc(Res) is a 12 month full-time research degree that is assessed on the basis of a 30,000 word thesis. Projects for MSc(Res) research are advertised on this page and on the School of Biology website. Interested students should contact Dr MacNeill prior to submitting a formal application. Partial fee waivers for exceptionally well-qualified students are also possible with this degree. Current fee levels can be seen here.

MSc(Res) projects for 2023

Eukaryotic chromosome replication and genome stability

In all forms of life, successful chromosomal DNA replication is essential for maintaining genome integrity. Defective replication impacts genome structure and information content in a variety of ways, including sequence deletion, insertion and duplication, point mutation and chromosome fusion. Research in the MacNeill lab is focused on understanding molecular mechanisms of eukaryotic genome stability at the molecular level, using fission yeast as a model system. This MSc(Res) project will allow the student to gain vital experience in a wide variety of techniques encompassing cell biology, genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry, providing an excellent preparation for future PhD studies in genome stability.

Exploring the enzymes and mechanisms of chromosomal DNA replication in the archaea

Highly-efficient chromosomal DNA replication is essential for all forms of life. The archaeal replication machinery represents a simplified version of that found in eukaryotic cells but exhibits a number of intriguing features that shed light on how eukaryotic replication evolved. Our research has focused on using the genetically tractable haloarchaeal organism Haloferax volcanii as a model for dissecting archaeal DNA replication. This project will allow the student to learn how to genetically manipulate Haloferax volcanii to explore how gene family expansions have shaped the replication capacity of this model organism. To complement these studies, the student will also undertake biochemical analysis of one or more replication proteins.

DNA ligases from the outermost branches of the Tree of Life

DNA ligases are essential enzymes in all forms of life on Earth and are a cornerstone of recombinant DNA technology. This MSc(Res) project will explore the properties of highly diverged and previously unstudied ATP-dependent ligase enzymes from the outermost branches of the Tree of Life, with a view to uncovering enzymes with enhanced biochemical properties suitable for biotech applications. The project will focus on enzymes encoded by diverse bacteriophages, eukaryotic viruses and cellular organisms. Enzymes will be expressed and purified in recombinant form and tested for stability and activity under a range of conditions and on different substrates. The project will serve as an excellent introduction to recombinant DNA technology, protein expression and purification, and nucleic acid biochemistry.

There is no deadline for applications. Interested students should contact Dr Stuart MacNeill.

Visiting students

The lab frequently hosts visiting Bachelors, Masters and PhD students from elsewhere in the UK, mainland Europe and beyond who wish to gain experience of working in a different environment, with a different model organism or with a different experimental system. If you are interested in coming to the lab, contact Dr MacNeill to discuss possibilities.

Summer students

Undergraduate students wishing to spend the Summer in the lab and who are eligible for vacation studentship funding from the Biochemical SocietyMicrobiology SocietyGenetics SocietyWellcome Trust or other funding bodies should contact Dr MacNeill to discuss possible projects. Note that the deadlines for applying for these studentships are typically in late January or mid-February and that students should be in the middle year of their first degree. Undergraduate students who are able to support themselves without the need for external funding are also welcome, although space is inevitably limited.